East Feast is an annual event at which guests come and enjoy a special meal, and at the same time hear presentations from three selected artists, then vote on which presenter will be awarded up to $1,000 of funding toward their stated project. There is also live music. Overall, it is a great atmosphere and lots of fun for everyone. You can learn more about it here.
I was selected this year to present my Disposable Landscapes project. Although I was not selected for the funding, I did get a lot out of the presentation. I met some great people and got good feedback from the audience. I met some key people and got some great leads. Preparing for this event definitively took my project to the next level. The following is a transcription of my speech.
First, I’d like to recognize that we are on traditional Coast Salish territory and to thank our hosts for allowing us to be here.
I’m not that good at public speaking. I spent most of my time preparing these materials-I guess that is what I am good at-but I’ll give this my best shot.
East Vancouver, Strathcona and the Downtown East Side are neighborhoods rich in diversity, artistic talent and progressive thinking but at the same time, these neighborhoods struggle with the stigmas of poverty, homelessness, addiction and neglect.
Every Vancouverite, most Canadians and anyone who has ever heard about the Downtown East Side has an opinion on the situation. But most get their information from the media, or from preconceived ideas, misguided values, misinformation and romantic notions. Photos show the Downtown East Side without attitude, window-dressing, irony or narrative.
I moved to B.C. about 20 years ago and most of that time I’ve been living in East Van. I took up photography as a hobby when I was 19 and I’ve been taking photos ever since. The photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson, who is credited with inventing Street Photography in 1937 said that your first 10,000 photos are your worst. I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately.
I went to art school at Capilano University and I’m the managing Creative Director at a clothing manufacturing business in Strathcona. Photography, and this project especially -is kind of like a hobby, something I do on the side. Since I have a full time job that keeps me pretty busy, I’m happy to get whatever opportunity I can get. Events like this are a big deal and $1,000 will really go a long way.
About 10 years ago, I started to explore East Vancouver, taking more and more photos. That practice eventually led to Disposable Landscapes.
Disposable Landscapes is a compilation of photography, graphic design and street poetry collected and inspired by Vancouver’s Downtown East Side. It is a raw look into the city’s grittiest neighborhood - a record of messages that have come and gone, and a showcase of the built environment itself.
My goal is to give back to East Van. I’ve walked up and down all of the streets and alleys. There isn’t a square inch of this place that I have not explored.
A couple of years ago, I had these cards printed and started to leave them in the places that I take photos. When I leave them, they are like a calling card-and at the same time like a tag or graffiti, but something the person that finds it can take away. When someone finds a card, gets to my website and discovers the photos and other content, it is a serendipitous thing that happens and pretty much DIY and Guerrilla Marketing the whole way.
The cards are great when I travel; to leave at shops, up on bulletin boards and to give to people that I meet. I’ve used them in three Canadian cities, six U.S. states and five countries so far.
After doing the card thing for a couple of years, I want to be more direct; I want the happy accident of people discovering these photos and the take-away to be something tangible that can be taken home, put up on a wall, shared and enjoyed.
So I’ve developed a photo flip-book format that I can build myself, doesn’t cost too much money and is modular by design.
The photo flip-book is a group of 4 x 6 photos double-sided taped together, hole-punched and bound with plastic coil.
The purpose of the booklet, like the cards -is to place them and leave them for anyone to find.
Part of the project is to play on the notion of street art vs. fine art but more importantly; to re-contextualize the every day by presenting East Van back to itself as Art. The preconceived value and disconnect that comes with packaged art and the notion of a gallery as private property are examined.
My proposal for East Feast is that I’ll print 2,800 photos to build 200 photo flip-books like these. I’ll build at least twenty different versions, so the content will be diverse and varied.
In addition to building 200 photo flip-books and leaving them to be found by anyone, I will frame ten photos in frames like this one and again leave them to be found by anyone. The framed photos are a special take-away and have real value.
As a bonus, I’ll take anyone that is interested on a walking tour of the Downtown East Side. I’ll show you Street Photography techniques; I’ll show you color, light, texture, composition and bring you to parts of the neighborhood I’ve discovered that you may not know about or have visited. While we’re at it, we might just nail up a few framed photos and drop some flip-books. There is a sign-up sheet here, so in the few minutes that you have, come around and sign up!
In closing, I want to thank you for your time and patience. I’d really like to thank the organizers of East Feast, the musicians, the Chef, the volunteers, the other presenter, and all of you for coming here today to support independent artists.
With $1,000 you will help me give back to East Van by giving away art; to those that might not otherwise go to a gallery; to those that will benefit from a gift.